Perhaps future historians will call it the Stoned Age: prehistoric cave painters were so starved of oxygen deep underground that they may have been euphoric and hallucinating when they got to work, archaeologists claim.

A study speculates that, not unlike the hippies of the 1960s, the artists made a deliberate effort to harness the mind-altering effects of hypoxia so that they could “connect with the cosmos”.

Israeli researchers observed that many palaeolithic cave paintings in Europe are hundreds of metres from caves’ entrances, either in chambers accessed via narrow passages or in the passages themselves. These spaces were not used for daily domestic activities, raising questions about why early artists ventured into such claustrophobic corners to get creative.

A replica of Chauvet cave in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, southern France, complete with reproductions of art found in the real cave, to which access is restricted

A replica of Chauvet cave in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, southern France, complete with reproductions of art found in the real cave, to which access is restricted

CLAUDE PARIS/AP

In a paper in Time and Mind:

Categories:

Tags:

Comments are closed